Swansea 0 Sheffield United 0: Slav’s Blades still a work in progress after second blank of season

The game was barely 10 minutes old when Slavisa Jokanovic spotted something that wasn’t to his liking.

Sunday, 15th August 2021, 11:32 am

Prowling around the technical area and summoning assistant Chema Sanz from the bench, Sheffield United’s manager spent a good sixty seconds deep in conversation with the Spaniard before repeating the routine over and over again.

The Serb’s body language on the touchline betrayed his frustration at what he was witnessing.

The visitors are still a work in progress following a chaotic summer schedule. But against a Swansea City side which also lacked the punch to translate possession into goals - or even clear cut opportunities - United also appeared to lack conviction as well.

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Speaking after this goalless draw at the Liberty Stadium, Jokanovic denied United’s inertia had been a symptom of a team lacking self-belief, confidence and the personnel required to implement his tactics.

However, after describing himself as a pragmatist rather than someone wedded to a particular set of footballing ideals, the 52-year-old admitted they are still struggling to draw a clear picture of what the future looks like.

And it shows, with United entering Wednesday’s match against West Bromwich Albion still searching for their first Championship win since being relegated last term.

“You’ve got me all wrong,” Jokanovic said, rubbishing the notion that ‘Slavisa-ball’ exists despite a wealth of circumstantial evidence to the contrary.

Chris Basham of Sheffield United applauds the travelling fans: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“My way is to win the game. That is what I am about and we are looking for the best ways for us, for our group, to do that.”

Jokanovic inherited a number of problems when he officially took charge of United seven weeks ago, including a warm-up programme wrecked by the Covid-19 pandemic and a shortage of morale behind the scenes following last season’s wretched Premier League campaign.

But the most intractable, the one which will prove the biggest test of his expertise, id the fact this is a United squad constructed to play a specific formation. And with Jack O’Connell, easily the most marauding of Bramall Lane marauding centre-halves still unavailable due to injury, it probably lacks the personnel to even do that effectively.

Little wonder, after being forced to start his reign in South Yorkshire without any new signings, Jokanovic is looking forward to welcoming Ronaldo Vieira and Ben Davies to Bramall Lane this week.

The duo, whose loan moves from Sampdoria and Liverpool have been agreed in principal, should help United execute the game plan he and Sanz have devised.

“The people who come in, they will be important for us,” Jokanovic said., “But the people already here are just as important as well.”

The Watford and Fulham sides Jokanovic led to promotion before takinh up a position in the Middle East both dominated the ball and pressed with purpose whenever they surrendered it.

United, despite not lacking for effort, did neither here; although, after Jamal Lowe had seen an angled drive saved by Aaron Ramsdale, they should have taken three points rather than one when David McGoldrick met a late cross into the Swansea box. Instead of hitting the target, though, the former Republic of Ireland international directed his header wide.

“I would say we were decent,” Jokanovic admitted. “The new players should give us an extra push but we are still adapting and I know we can do better.”